A Syrian refugee family has come under focus following reports of bullying and racially aggravated assault of its members since they took refuge in the UK.
The systematic bullying came to light after a video surfaced online showing one of the family members -- a 15-year-old identified only as Jamal -- being racially abused, grabbed, shoved to the ground and held down by the throat as water is poured over his face at Almondbury Community School. It went viral this week as millions of social media users shared it worldwide.
A 16-year-old youth has been interviewed and reported for summons for an offence of assault that took place on Oct. 25, the West Yorkshire Police Department said in a statement Wednesday.
The identity of the assailant, who has shared far-right material on his social media accounts on many occasions, has been largely circulated on social media, but he is not being named for legal reasons.
- Victim's sister bullied at same school
However, a new video appeared online late Wednesday showing a female student with a headscarf also being bullied, racially abused and pushed to the ground by a group of female students. Local media say she is Jamal’s sister.
The local police force immediately launched an investigation and is appealing for information on the incident.
“We have been made aware of a video showing a girl being assaulted at Almondbury Community School [on Tuesday],” the West Yorkshire Police Department said.
“The incident had not previously been reported to the police, but we are now liaising with the girl’s family, who we are continuing to support,” the statement added.
- Traumatized family
Jamal, who cannot be fully identified for legal reasons, described how he has been targeted by bullies for the past two years in an exclusive interview with ITV News.
"I was feeling unsafe everywhere - even to go to the shop," he said.
"I was feeling like I couldn't study or do my homework. I woke up at night and just started crying because of this problem.
"When I saw everyone looking at this video, I felt ashamed of myself and why it happened. I was really upset about that."
Jamal and his family had fled their war-torn town of Homs in 2016.
He said the bullying and racism have been so bad since he came to the UK through a UN refugee program that he didn’t want to go to school.
"I don't feel safe at school. Sometimes I say to my dad I don't want to go to school anymore," he said.
"I was disappointed when I came to the UK because I was thinking my life is going to be good, my future is going to be really good if I study at school. And I didn't achieve any of that."
The teenager also said he tried to report the never-ending bullying and racism to local authorities, but he failed to make his voice heard by them.
Reporting for ITV News from Huddersfield, Ben Chapman, the reporter who interviewed Jamal, said Jamal’s father told him the family feels “very vulnerable” at home since all of this has come about.
Chapman reported the father as having told him that the family members have had threats outside the school as well and all of it means that they don’t feel confident to continue living in Huddersfield.
Tasnime Akunjee a solicitor representing the family, said they were considering moving away from the area and had received offers to be rehomed in Oxford, according to The Guardian newspaper.
Akunjee said the couple’s daughter, who attends the same school, had been bullied by another group of pupils and last week someone forcibly removed her hijab.
He said the family also contacted their local MP, Barry Sheerman, about a month ago.
“The family had concerns about their children and the environment their children were in at school. They weren’t sure how to engage assistance because of the language barrier. We were so concerned about these children that we contacted the school, council and the local police.”
The latest incidents have received wide attention from millions of social media users across the country and globe.
A crowdfunding page set up online to assist the bullied teenager and his family has raised more than £115,000 ($147,571) only 24 hours since it was launched.
The Muslim Council of Britain reacted to the incident.
“The distressing video of a young Syrian refugee from a school in Huddersfield being physically assaulted shows how far Islamophobia has manifested in society,” it said.
“It is promising to hear the perpetrator has been charged. Islamophobia must be rooted out and dealt with in all cases.”
In recent years, there has been a significant increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes in the UK, with 2017 having a record number of Islamophobic attacks. Tell Mama, a multi-faith monitoring group, recorded over 1,200 reports of Islamophobic incidents, a 26-percent surge from the previous year.